Hello summertime! Well, I thought these previous couple of months would bring me much more time to stay indoors and watch as many movies as possible. However, it ended up bringing me a lot more pleasant surprises than I could have possibly predicted. While I have been much more happier and satisfied with my life’s direction as of lately, the downside is that I have less time to watch films than I find ideal. Still, there are a lot of hours in a day, so I’ve been trying my hardest to squeeze in as many as possible, if only to keep my blog as variant and fun as possible.
As always, I won’t review every single film I watched, but rather just go over some of the highlights. However, I’ll try to make this a bit longer, since I’ll be covering both months and have had more time to write about more movies. Think of it as a mid-year gift. 😉
I started my June off with a bang by watching Chang Cheh’s kung-fu classic Five Element Ninjas. I’ve been making it a personal goal of mine to watch as many of Paste Magazine’s 100 Best B-Movies as possible (although I’m not doing a very great job at this). This film and Crippled Avengers were the two Chang films that made it in their top ten, so I obviously had to see what the fuss was about. Five Elements is nothing short of a cinematic treat. As with many of these types of action films, the story is nothing to go on about. At the same time, though, the choreography here is absolutely boss, implementing props and wires to astronomical lengths and creating an absolute visual phenomenon. It’s also far more violent than I expected; almost like something I would expect from Grindhouse cinema rather than classic kung-fu canon. Also, there’s a female ninja who is just super badass! It’s one that I would highly recommend any self-respecting cinephile to seek out. I highly recommend the Blu-Ray from Tokyo Shock.
I wrote more at length about the first two Terminator films (which I barely watched for the first time in June), but I’ll briefly reiterate my thoughts here. In short, while there were many elements to be appreciated in the first, I didn’t connect with it as much as I’m sure everyone else has. On the flip-side, I loved the second, mainly due to its slick stylishness and the total hotness that is Linda Hamilton. Also, while Schwarzenegger has never really interested me as an actor, his stone-cold demeanor as the titular figure makes me want to check out some of his more action-oriented stuff (I’ve only ever seen Jingle All the Way and Batman & Robin so I DEFINITELY have some work to do).
I’m still trying to make my way through movies that I should have watched ages ago, and while I’m not focusing on any particular genre or era of cinema, I’ve had a tendency to gravitate toward movies from the 80s. It seems to be, if not the best decade for film, at least one of the most fun. Particularly since we get fun directors like John Carpenter and a slew of cult classics like Big Trouble in Little China – a film I finally stopped putting off and ended up really loving. It’s absolutely absurd and illogical in every way possible, yet it is exactly this level of madcap action that makes it such a fun watch. The over-the-top performances really add to its overall flair, offering equal shares of comedy and charisma. This certainly seems like the kind of film I could watch again and again – preferably with a group of friends and beer and junk food at hand.
Another 80s film I recently watched for the first time: Beverly Hills Cop. Oh my goodness, classic Eddie Murphy may very well have been the absolute best, funniest thing to ever happen. Yes, this is an exaggeration, but I just loved it so much! While there are many that insist on Midnight Run being Martin Brest’s strongest directorial effort, I’d have to disagree. Midnight Run is rather fun, but relatively forgettable, at least in comparison to the fun times I had with watching Beverly Hills Cop. Of course, Murphy steals the show, not only as a comedy star, but also as a genuinely believable, likable action player who makes the entire thing worth watching. Must watch the sequels now!
The Harry Potter films are one of the only cinematic “milestones” that I’ve actually been putting off for a discernible reason – that being that they really only interest me on a very minimal level. I never got around to reading the books when I was younger and don’t carry the crucial element of nostalgia that the majority of the fanbase undoubtedly possesses. The plus side of this, however, is I feel more obliged to critically judge the films for the films’ sake, since I am unbiased. I’ll probably write a longer post on my journey through these films once I complete them all; for now, I’ve only gone through the first three.
Sorcerer’s Stone is definitely a good, cute, fun start to the series, although it’s not hard to point out the recurring tendencies of director Chris Columbus. I can’t help but wonder how different of a film it would be without these kiddish quirks (though it does make sense, considering that the series as a whole is marketed for a very young audience, but I digress). I was severely disappointed with just how boring I found Chamber of Secrets. It’s got many trademarks found in the first film, but almost as if they’ve gotten the warmth and liveliness sucked out of it, which is such a pity. Finally, Prisoner of Azkaban stands as the first Harry Potter film that has made me genuinely excited to check out the rest. Assigning Alfonso Cuarón to direct was a wise choice, and the dismal darkness that parallels the metaphorical trials of entering young adulthood has begun to take head. I’ll always love my fantasy with a side of good old-fashioned cynicism, so I’m actually pretty stoked to see what the rest of the franchise has to offer.
As I mentioned in May’s recap, my job has granted me more financial freedom to catch up on some 2014 releases in theaters, instead of just binging on them all in December/January like I’ve done every other year. In June, I watched Jodorowsky’s The Dance of Reality, which I’ve been genuinely excited for, since the work of this auteur has always really fascinated me. Unfortunately, I was not very impressed by the film at all; in fact, it has become my absolute least favorite film I’ve seen from this year. It has a lot of the absolutely bonkers style of surrealism that Jodorowsky is so renown for and it should have totally worked against the bizarre, somewhat autobiographical narrative he presents. Yet the final product just came off as empty, pretentious, and meandering off on tangents that serve little purpose other than mindless perversion (to me at least). There were a few scenes that actually harked back to the solid weirdness that the director does so well (golden shower, anyone?), but for the most part it’s utterly boring and painfully forgettable. At least it looks super nice.
Every once in a while, a documentary film comes along that challenges my previously-held views toward how documentary films should be portrayed. This month, my world was flipped upside-down by a little film called Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary. It records a simple competition set in a small town in Texas that would be (and probably should have been) absolutely mundane to the outside viewer. However, the film cleverly covers the event with special focus on the collision of Southern stereotypes and personalities that make it impossible to turn away from the film for one second. To me, the documentary felt much longer than its 90-something minutes, but only becauseI was so drawn to how intense and entertaining the ordeals of these characters came to be. In many ways, this was bound to be a shoddy, forgettable kind of documentary; by some crazy miracle, it’s exactly the opposite. I’ll be recommending this to all my friends.
I cannot even begin to describe the wonderful feeling the comes over me when I watch a film that goes against the grain of female representation in fresh and wonderful ways. That’s the way I felt after viewing Lukas Moodysson’s latest film We Are the Best!. I had previously been familiar with Moodysson’s work, being especially enthusiastic toward Show Me Love and Lilja 4-Ever. Needless to say, this possessed much less of the bleakness of the latter and more of the charm and warmth of the former. These three young punker chicks are so incredibly badass, and the naturalistic, minimalist way the film is captured makes it seem so incredibly true-to-life. As a result, I felt like I actually knew these girls in real life – and thus, I wanted them to succeed soooo badly. This film does so many things to spit in the face of the patriarchal culture that surrounds the music industry, and does so through the medium of music – specifically, the most “fuck you” genre of music out there, punk rock. I loved this movie so much and everyone should watch it.
Sometimes my curiosity gets the very best of me and I wind up making some rather atrocious film-viewing decisions. One of the worst decisions made by me in June happened in the form of Birdemic 2: The Resurrection. Now, I initially hated the first film and absolutely couldn’t relate to its cult status. However, watching the dismal sequel has almost made me appreciate its predecessor more for at least being a little entertaining through its badness. Sure, on a technical level Birdemic made every single misstep fathomable to humanity, all while being completely oblivious to how much full of shit it actually is. But at the very least, there is some fun to be found in the terrible acting, writing, and special effects and the unpredictability of it all made its absolutely bizarre decisions worthwhile. It’s easy (and fun) to laugh at how bad it is.
However, the same could not be said for Birdemic 2. I suppose it’s inevitable that this sequel would act as little more than fanservice, but the way it goes about it is pretty embarrassing. Once again, James Nguyen is fully enveloped in the delusion that he is somehow being clever and subversive in this film. With the first, he did so with a heavy-handed global warming subtext; in the second, it’s through his usage of meta-commentary on his own films. Moreover, the element of surprise is fully removed, since the events that go on in the sequel are essentially the same as the first film. So what do we have? A narrative that differs only slightly to the previous film, with similarly abysmal acting, writing, and special effects, only with the additional edge of acknowledgement of the first film through a truly sigh-worthy “nudge nudge, wink wink” style of meta-fiction that practically sucks every bit of life to be found in this “franchise”. No thanks.
Another milestone I finally completed in June was the completion of Kieślowski’s legendary Three Colors trilogy. I must confess, I watched Three Colors: Blue about a year ago, yet never thought too much of it, feeling it to be rather pretentious and too style-over-substance. Watching it a second time, however, was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had with a rewatch. What I previous found contrived and empty was now replete with so much more meaning than I ever imagined. I was especially fond with its use of music, its lovely cinematography, and the lovely Juliette Binoche nailing her role (as always). The story was far more compelling this time around and there were even a couple of moments that had me close to tears. I loved it, although I still wouldn’t consider it the strongest of the trilogy, as noted by a good deal of personal reviews I’ve read.
Three Colors: White was my least favorite of the trilogy; however, that’s not to say that it didn’t come with its fair share of awesomeness. I guess that it being sandwiched between the pure cinematic bliss of Blue and Red (which I will get to in a bit) would lead it to come across as at least a little underwhelming. But in its own respects, it’s a completely solid film. The plot itself came across as a bit hard to follow and it felt a bit weird on an overall tonal level. I can totally see how the label “dark comedy” fits it though. In general, Kieślowski’s attempts at dark comedy always come off as a bit strange – as noted in Decalogue X – and perhaps this is a bit of a sore thumb in relation to the other two of the trilogy. Still, it’s completely worth the watch for its solid performances and writing.
And then comes Three Colors: Red – a perfect closer to this series and my personal favorite of the trilogy. I wonder if there has been any writing on how the use of color in each of these three films affect different individuals’ viewing experiences. For me, I felt that the deep blues in Blue made the overall atmosphere more moody and tragic, the shades of white making White more muted and versatile, and the reds in Red making the film feel intense and fiery. I think it is this rich-yet-subtle intensity that I loved so much about this film. This can especially be seen in its cinematography, which is immediately compelling with its opening shot involving telephone wires. It doesn’t stop there, as there are many other interesting choices made in its mise-en-scéne. Irene Jacob is awesome here, and her story is one that I’ve found the most interesting and universal, with something mysterious always hidden below the surface. It is this kind of marriage of these multiple filmmaking elements that make me so intrigued toward Kieślowski’s body of work, and I can’t wait to watch more.
I think I’ve had it with Ralph Bakshi. In a world where animation is rarely seen by the mainstream as a true art form – little more than a way in which Disney and the ilk can cater to kids – Bakshi’s provocative style is one of the most recognizable and well-respected. Yet a couple weeks after my viewing of American Pop, I barely remember much about it. It’s got some pretty incredible music from a wide range of eras, no doubt about that. And the story itself isn’t even half bad – it’s really nice stumbling across such a non-conventional narrative that doesn’t tie itself to a standard arc of conflict. At the same time, though, the film uses tropes and clichés that we’ve all seen dozens of times before. There are a few cool music montages, but for the most part, these are all driven by the terrific music itself and not the animation, which remains rather bland and boring. And I’m still not a fan of the portrayal of women in Bakshi’s work; in this one, all the men get to live the carefree rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle (even past the rebellious 1960s), while the women are subjected to being groupies or prostitutes. At this point, I’m not looking forward to much of what the filmmaker has to offer, but will still probably watch his stuff for the sake of completion.
This past June, a super important question was finally answered: does the legendary Vampire’s Kiss hold up on a second viewing? Turns out it totally does! I really want to write a longer post on this movie alone. I genuinely believe that this is the best performance that Nicolas Cage has ever done. Don’t even bring up that Adaptation or Leaving Las Vegas shit to me. This film contains his absolute masterpiece as a performer, absolutely nailing every single breath and gesture required for such a maniacal performance. But is the movie itself any good? That, I’m not so sure about. The story is a bit of a mess, often meandering from scene to scene, never really accomplishing all that much and concluding on a disappointedly ambiguous note. Still, the film is completely, 100% worth the watch for the miracle of a performance embodied in Cage. Seriously, if you had to ask me, this would probably make in my top 5 performances of the 1980s, a decade that was terrible for Oscar winners and terrific for such cult films as Vampire’s Kiss. This is a must-see for anyone the least bit interested in acting.
I already wrote in length about Obvious Child, but I’ll briefly repeat some of these thoughts here. Basically, it’s a totally solid film and one of the best that I’ve seen dealing with abortion. Jenny Slate is absolutely adorable and plays her character with such substantial, believable charisma that makes viewers want to see her come out of the predicament in one piece. It handles its sensitive subject matter with a vibrant sense of humor, while also remaining mature and clear-headed (yes, even among all those fart jokes). Sure it’s flawed, but it’s also totally charming and utterly rewatchable. It’s become one of my very favorites I’ve seen from this year so far and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it makes my top ten of the year overall.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a film that I think was tailored for viewers just like me. It’s not surprising that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of my very favorite movies ever, as genderfuckery musicals are totally my forte. It’s equally as unsurprising that I enjoyed the hell out of Hedwig. The songs are all completely catchy and vivacious and the performances are all rather compelling, full of character, sometimes funny, and always full of heart. John Cameron Mitchell really gave it his all in both his directing and his acting and the final product really shows this off. Although overall I desperately wish that more trans people would be hired to play trans characters, Mitchell’s portrayal of the titular character greatly contributed to aiming at more positive fictional representations of queer folk. Hedwig’s gender and sexuality were never treated as a malady, but rather as components of her character that made her strong and well-defined. This is something that I can truly appreciate, and I can definitely see this ranking among some of my favorite musicals in the future.
Another milestone achieved for me this month: my first-time viewing of the sci-fi cult classic The Fifth Element. Weeks after my initial viewing, I mainly look back on it relatively positively. It probably goes without saying that the movie as a whole is, with every fragment of its existence, absolutely over-the-top and ridiculous. The Gaultier-designed wardrobe alone makes this entirely evident, while also being one of my very favorite things about the film. Sure, there are quite a few things about The Fifth Element that make absolutely no sense and threaten to launch its mere existence into a black hole of absurdity. There is, however, something inexplicably fascinating about witnessing such a clusterfuck of unrestrained creativity that, ultimately, makes for some completely tangible, pleasantly satisfying entertaining. Because of its lack of pretenses, I had so much fun with it and would be more than welcome to watch it again and again in hopes that I could fully engage with its cult status.
(As a sidenote, I absolutely cannot join in on the bandwagon of Chris Tucker hate. Within the context of a film that is already so highfalutin in its narrative and humor base, Ruby Rhod is perfect.)
Here’s the thing about the grindhouse drive-in classic Pieces. I watched it for the first time about a year ago, with the initial consensus that, while tremendously stupid, it still offers a far value of satisfying entertainment. At the very end of June this year, I finally rewatched it, coming to the same conclusion. However, a few days after this rewatch, I sat down with another person to watch it again (this being his first viewing). It was then when I realized exactly why and how this movie attained such a steady cult status over time. The stilted, awkward, tremendously stupid dialogue (“The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a water bed”) becomes illuminated as a work of ingenious unintentional comedy. The kills remain as brutal as ever and while I’ve always admired the cinematography in this particular film, being around someone witnessing these aspects with fresh eyes makes me admire this a little more than I had previously. It’s revealed to me just how important rewatches are to the art of cinema, and how much I really need to focus on viewing some of these movies again in order for their magic to reach their full potential – like it has with Pieces.
Regrettably, I was never quite as familiar with Roger Ebert’s work and writing before his passing as some of my other film critic buddies. A year later, however, my utmost admiration has ballooned as I’ve come to realize just how important his presence was (and continues to be) within the field. Life Itself is a beautiful labor of love that is less a biography of an influential figure and more an inspirational demonstration of one man’s unconditional love for cinema. There were some scenes that I found incredibly hard to watch, mainly for just how raw they were in documenting some of the final days of Ebert’s life. More than anything, however, the documentary was incredibly life-affirming and could surely prove inspirational to anyone even considering entering the fields of filmmaking and/or film criticism. In fact, thanks to this movie I’ve gotten back into writing about film a little bit more. It really is one of the most heartfelt documentaries out there, one that will surely be making my end-of-the-year list.
Now for the shit end of things – I really hated De Palma’s Dressed to Kill. HATED it. With every fiber of my being. Sure it’s stylish and sure it does some clever, original things to a narrative that is essentially a recycled prototype of the Psycho storyline. Yet one of its most unforgivable crimes is reinforcing the pervasive trope of transsexuality/transgenderism standing in close correlation with pathological illness and psychopathy. Sure, I get that it’s paying homage to Hitchcock and dismantling the psychological aspects of Psycho‘s famous ending (spoiler alert?) that was previously merely played off as a brief twist. Yet the way it’s played out here is ugly and hurtful and relentlessly feeds into harmful stereotypes that marginalizes trans folk to this day. It was a very uncomfortable watch for this very reason, making this the first De Palma film I legitimately despise. Nonetheless, the story itself suggests some rather interesting things to deconstruct as far as gender and sexual politics are concerned. I’m sure I’ll be more willing to get around to those once my initial rage alleviates.
And now back to good stuff. I was really surprised with how much I absolutely loved Polanski’s lastest Venus in Fur. I wasn’t really looking forward to watching it at all; I basically just decided to check it out on a whim, since it was playing at the theater I work at. Through its entirety, the narrative is largely driven by interactions between two characters in a closed off room – a stage director and a woman who is auditioning for a major role in his latest adaptation. There is a LOT of talking, yet it’s all so well-written and never not absolutely compelling. I must admit that I watched this particular film on a rather hectic day for me, so I caught myself dozing a little bit in the theater. Yet once it picks up, it’s impossible to look away for fear of missing the merest fragment of its intensity. Besides all the delicious departures into S&M territory, the film basically documents the tearing-apart of this unlikable character’s delicate male ego by a strong-willed, feisty lady. Terrific performances drive this one along, which make me all the more interested in possibly catching the play from which this movie is adapted from. There’s just so many layers here to work with and while the overall message doesn’t exactly aim for the most subtle presentation, I loved it nevertheless.
Continuing my classic 80s movie binge, I finally got around to Purple Rain, a favorite of my mom’s. I don’t exactly lie within the crowd of folks who love it unconditionally nor the crowd who hate it unanimously. There are things I love about it, notably the awesome soundtrack and music montages that had me dancing in my seat. However, there are also a good deal of things I absolutely could not get on board with, such as how boring and flat nearly every character is presented. Moreover, I could not get behind Prince’s character and the struggles I was supposed to empathize with him for – especially considering the guy was essentially written as an abusive, misogynistic douchebag, my least favorite kind of person/character. At least the film is shot pretty well and has some terrific music (i.e. JUNGLE LOVE BY THE MOTHERFUCKING TIME, a.k.a. the only song that matters), so those’ll be the best things I get out of this viewing experience.
Bernie is an interesting dark comedy that doesn’t seem to get talked about very often – especially odd, considering that its director is the almighty Richard Linklater. It certainly has the best Jack Black performance I’ve ever seen, a spot that was previously taken by his other Linklater-directed role in School of Rock. It really proves that the guy actually has some substantial range and can actually be quite nuanced and brilliant in his acting. But the film itself is clever in other ways as well, such as placing its titular character – proven to be a pleasant fellow in every which way – at the center of a terrible crime that no one wants to believe he’d ever commit. It never gets so outlandish that it becomes stupid, but also goes in directions that are perfectly absurd and often hilarious. I daren’t ruin too much, as I feel that a fresh insight is most important for a first-time viewing of this. It’s absolutely worth it for Black alone!
During the final week of July, I took a brief vacation back home. During that time, I had very little means of accessing as wide of a variety of movies than I normally would. Therefore, my viewing ratio was a little low during that week, comprising mainly of mediocrity from the 2010s such as The Internship and To Rome With Love. One of the finest cinematic experiences, however, was my belated first-time viewing of the Jim Henson classic The Dark Crystal. Rooted in dense mythology and filled to the brim with some truly fascinating imagery, there wasn’t a moment that I dared take my eyes away from the screen. While the characters are all purely animatronic creations, it’s a far stray away from the stiff figurines ever-present in Disneyland attractions. Instead, they are brilliantly animated in such a way where emotion and personality emit seamlessly from these constructed creatures. A considerably darker approach from the man behind the Muppets, The Dark Crystal is a beautiful, distinct, nearly flawless work of art that I’m sure many have only ever dreamed of reinventing to similar standards. It further shows just how much of a genius Mr. Henson truly was.
Apart from movies, I’ve also been trying to get back on the track with reading books and novels, which I’ve been unfortunately slacking on (during college I’d devour a novel a week!). One of my more interesting discoveries is Greg Sestero’s The Disaster Artist, in which he discusses his friendship with Tommy Wiseau and his involvement within the (disastrous) production of (the equally disastrous) The Room, among other meditations. I’ve always been a fan of this cult film – widely considered the worst film ever made – so it’s no surprising that I’d get a kick out of the book. At the end of the month, I gave this film one more rewatch and was surprised at how much more I got out of it, now aware of the plethora of behind-the-scenes insight offered by Sestero. One of my favorites is how Wiseau’s now famous “I did naaawt… oh, hi Mark” line took three hours and over thirty takes to capture decently – despite the shot itself only being about seven seconds in length. Placing this extratexual substance amidst the film only serves to make it more fascinating, perhaps in an oddly mythical way. May the spoon-throwing and bad line-reading forever bask in infamy.
That’s about it! Next up, here is the official amount of films I watched the past two months, arranged by year:
1880s – 0
1890s – 0
1900s – 0
1910s – 0
1920s – 0
1930s – 0
1940s – 7
1950s – 9
1960s – 2
1970s – 8
1980s – 18
1990s – 15
2000s – 12
2010s – 15
Now let’s look at the list of films I’ve watched and rewatched in June (asterisks indicate rewatches):
- Five Element Ninjas (Cheh, 1982)
- Mary’s Birthday (Reiniger, 1951)
- The Terminator (Cameron, 1984)
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991)
- MouseHunt (Verbinski, 1997)
- Tekkonkinkreet (Arias, 2006)
- Deduce, You Say! (Jones, 1956)
- Boobs in the Woods (McKimson, 1950)
- Golden Yeggs (Freleng, 1950)
- Rabbit Fire (Jones, 1951)*
- Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (Jones, 1953)*
- All the King’s Men (Rossen, 1950)
- Big Trouble in Little China (Carpenter, 1986)
- Beverly Hills Cop (Brest, 1984)
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Columbus, 2001)
- The Dance of Reality (Jodorowsky, 2014)
- Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary (Bindler, 1997)
- Tallhotblond (Schroeder, 2009)
- Crippled Avengers (Cheh, 1978)
- Elmer’s Candid Camera (Jones, 1940)*
- Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears (Jones, 1944)
- Fast and Furry-ous (Jones, 1949)
- Hair-Raising Hare (Jones, 1946)
- Awful Orphan (Jones, 1949)
- Haredevil Hare (Jones, 1948)
- For Scent-imental Reasons (Jones, 1949)*
- Frigid Hare (Jones, 1949)
- We Are the Best! (Moodysson, 2014)
- Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (Nguyen, 2013)
- Duke of Earl (Morales, 1979)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Columbus, 2002)
- Woyzeck (Herzog, 1979)
- Three Colors: Blue (Kieślowski, 1993)*
- Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (Arkush, 1979)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Cuarón, 2004)
- Darkman (Raimi, 1990)
- American Pop (Bakshi, 1981)
- Three Colors: White (Kieślowski, 1994)
- Vampire’s Kiss (Bierman, 1988)*
- Hong Kong Godfather (Wang, 1985)
- 21 Jump Street (Lord & Miller, 2012)
- Obvious Child (Robespierre, 2014)
- Hard Ticket to Hawaii (Sidaris, 1987)
- Ma vie en rose (Berliner, 1997)
- The Rabbi’s Cat (Sfar & Delesvaux, 2012)
- Plan 9 From Outer Space (Wood, 1959)
- The Black Cauldron (Berman & Rich, 1985)
- Trick or Treat (Hannah, 1952)
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Mitchell, 2001)
- Danny Deckchair (Balsmeyer, 2003)
- Kes (Loach, 1969)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg, 1977)
- The Fifth Element (Besson, 1997)
- Angel Heart (Parker, 1987)
- Three Colors: Red (Kieślowski, 1994)
- Pieces (Simón, 1982)*
… And July:
- The Visitor (Paradisi, 1980)
- Hellboy (del Toro, 2004)
- Pieces (Simón, 1982)*
- Kicking and Screaming (Baumbach, 1995)
- Fright Night (Holland, 1985)
- 10 Years (Linden, 2011)
- Paranoid Park (van Sant, 2008)
- Life Itself (James, 2014)
- Dressed to Kill (De Palma, 1980)
- Go (Liman, 1999)
- This Sporting Life (Anderson, 1963)
- Bloody Birthday (Hunt, 1981)
- Life During Wartime (Solondz, 2009)
- In a World… (Bell, 2013)
- Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (Allen, 1972)*
- Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (Lord & Miller, 2009)*
- Venus in Fur (Polanski, 2014)
- McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Altman, 1971)
- Lady and the Tramp (Luske et al., 1955)
- The Tin Drum (Schlöndorff, 1979)
- Hollywood Ending (Allen, 2002)
- Purple Rain (Magnoli, 1984)
- Bernie (Linklater, 2012)
- Amateur (Hartley, 1994)
- The Double Life of Véronique (Kieślowski, 1991)
- Manborg (Kostanski, 2012)*
- Diggstown (Ritchie, 1992)
- Maximum Overdrive (King, 1986)*
- The Internship (Levy, 2013)
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Roach, 1997)*
- The Dark Crystal (Oz & Henson, 1982)
- White House Down (Emmerich, 2013)
- To Rome, With Love (Allen, 2012)
- Valley Girl (Coolidge, 1983)*
- The Room (Wiseau, 2003)*
- Do The Right Thing (Lee, 1989)*
Total watched in June + July: 92
Total watched in 2014: 499
Total new-to-me in 2014: 431
Looks like my personal goal of 1,000 films watched by the end of the year is becoming increasingly unlikely; at this rate, it’ll be impossible. But there’s still hope! I’ve just got to make a mental note to pick up the pace.
Here is my favorite movie from the month of June:
Something compelled me to seek out Kes as soon as possible, despite me not knowing very much of what I was in for. As a pleasant surprise, I was totally fascinated. Something about this film reminded me of Ratcatcher, which I watched earlier this year; perhaps it’s the similar minimalist focus on a young British boy amongst bleak, dismal conditions. I’m not sure if I’d classify this as “coming-of-age” – as I’ve read others having done so – but if that were the case, it’s one of the saddest I’ve ever come across. Our protagonist is trapped amidst a flurry of bullying and constant mistreatment, none of it deserved and all of it purely out of the rotten luck of his existence. The best scenes were those which he spends quality time alone with his trained hawk Kes. These moments of solace and happiness (if only temporary) breath some hope into the narrative, which can be an undoubtedly uneasy watch. Ken Loach’s direction here is tops, and his ability to pull out such absolutely compelling, true-to-life performances is matched by few. Obviously, David Bradley is the excelling force here. By the end of the film, I wanted so bad for everything to turn out alright for him – but as with social realism (and reality in general), nothing is guaranteed.
Last, but certainly not least, here is my favorite film I watched in July:
McCabe & Mrs. Miller.
I’ve stated a few times already that, while I don’t carry an inherent aversion toward westerns overall, they haven’t exactly been my favorite genre of film. With that being said, I can then state with absolute confidence that Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller is one of the very best westerns I’ve ever watched. This is especially interesting considering the numerous things done in this film that intend on subverting conventions of the genre. Instead of the blazing hot desert sun, we get snow that seems to fall to no end. Instead of a John Wayne heroic figure, we get McCabe, a clumsy gambler who is by no means a sharpshooter. Instead of the damsel in distress, we get Mrs. Miller, who is driven by her own vices yet feisty and independent in ways that would put such outdated tropes to shame. Essentially an “anti-western”, I was compelled from the very first scene up until the last. The Leonard Cohen soundtrack doesn’t hurt either, especially since I am a really big fan of the guy. From the few films I’ve seen of his, Robert Altman has proven to be incredibly versatile and consistent in style, substance, and quality, and is bound to become a new favorite. I greatly look forward to checking out more of his work.